Blog

Our reflections on the challenges of life on a low income, and thoughts on where change is most needed.

20 May, 2024

Hope Starts Here: Parents share hopes for their children’s futures

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Participants,

Changing Realities parents have been working together on a new campaign ‘Hope Starts Here’, part of this has been engaging in creative workshops including blog writing. This blog contains extracts from participants, who are parents and carers living on a low income. They reflect on the present and share their hopes for their children’s futures.

Continue reading 19 mins
20 May, 2024

Hope Starts Here: Let us eat cake!

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Shirley,

Do you like cake? I do. Especially anything with buttercream - yum!

Continue reading 4 mins
20 May, 2024

Hope Starts Here: Security

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Crystal,

In Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a commonly used psychological theory for childhood development, it's clear that children have several key needs to be met before they can progress towards the overall goal of success in life. The first is physical needs: food, warmth, shelter. Things many children in poverty have limited access too. For those who are not homeless, many council houses are mould ridden and outdated, while private rent is insecure. This first basic need is not definitively met for children in poverty.

Continue reading 3 mins
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Catherine Fortey
13 May, 2024

Sick [Note] Culture

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Lili K,

The Prime Minister and his government are adamant that people are better off in work, and have recently begun to insist that our health will improve when we work.

Continue reading 10 mins
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photo by Faith Angwet
03 May, 2024

Does the May election bring Hope?

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Faith Angwet,

Historically in England and Wales, as a general rule, the local government elections happen every four years, with its date always falling at the start of May, before the recess, which is a summer break for MPs. At present, the Conservative Party has managed to be the ruling party in government for the past 14 years, despite only succeeding to gain majority seats almost 5 years ago, in the 2019 general election.

Continue reading 8 mins
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Photo by Vasily Koloda on unsplash.com
26 Apr, 2024

To What Degree Does It Matter?

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Chris R,

In this blog, Chris shares her worries that higher education does not offer equal opportunities for all school leavers…

Continue reading 9 mins
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21 Mar, 2024

The Perils of Parenting Solo

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Chris R,

Ever tried raising children? Spare a thought and give applause to those brave individuals who do it alone, often without a safety net to fall back on.

Continue reading 19 mins
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photo by Diane Helentjaris
08 Mar, 2024

'Not a single penny of help'

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Brian,

On Wednesday the Chancellor announced the Spring Budget for 2024. As a single parent living on legacy benefits, there is not a single penny of help for my situation that was announced yesterday, probably also not for many other people, or families, in similar situations.

Continue reading 5 mins
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Photo by Jim Bread on Unsplash
06 Mar, 2024

“From a stream of small voices to a resounding big sea”

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Libby N,

I joined Changing Realities (then called Covid Realities) approximately 9 months post-pandemic, when there was still a degree of uncertainty about how much longer COVID-19 was going to form part of our everyday lives.

Continue reading 6 mins
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Front cover of Changing Realities Zine
27 Feb, 2024

"Doing participatory research – reflecting back and looking forward"

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Mahabuba,
Joseph De-Ville,
Victoria,

On February 22nd, we launched our newest zine entitled "Doing Participatory Research – Reflecting Back and Looking Forward". Changing Realities participants Mahabuba, Joe, and Victoria discussed their experiences and viewpoints on the process of creating this zine as part of participatory research during the launch event. In this blog, we present their insights and reflections.

Continue reading 11 mins
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Catherine Fortey
02 Feb, 2024

The financial tipping point of January

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Ella Michalski,

As we step into February, it’s worth reflecting on the hurdles that often make the month of January feel like an uphill journey. January has always been a notoriously difficult financial month, as the remnants of Christmas and the need to please people lingers among many families. Those on low incomes will try hard to reign in their expenses, but the truth is that many have already reached a breaking point and the financial recovery from 2023 feels like a long and impossible road. Pressure to purchase presents, cards, attend events, to feed more family members and the hike in supermarket prices and strategic ‘offers’ all play a major factor in understanding why December is considered such a difficult month. The cost-of-living crisis may have slipped out of the headlines, but it is certainly not over, and the fight to recover is hard. Research supports this theory, as a report published by the Joseph Rowntree foundation in January 2024 discovers 6 million people living in deep poverty would need to more than double their incomes to move out of poverty. Even those in full time employment suffered during the festive period, as Precious D (Changing Realities participant) explains:

Continue reading 5 mins
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Sally R
21 Dec, 2023

Imagining Different and Better Futures

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Sally R,

I received an invite to attend a creative workshop in November at City Library in Bradford. This sounded like an interesting activity to get my creative skills into action and meet other Changing Realities participants. For me, this was a good opportunity to get away from the normal routine and talk to others while all working together toward the same cause.

Continue reading 4 mins
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Faith Angwet
30 Nov, 2023

Circus Statement

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Jo Barker-Marsh,

I listened to the Autumn Statement and felt a bit numb halfway through. I was happy to find out that UC will be uprated in line with the September 2023 interest rate of 6.7% (but wasn’t this the very least we could expect?). I heard the Chancellor say that the triple lock on pensions would remain and that too, felt like news I should celebrate, but…. During the fifty odd minutes it took to read the statement, I ran the gamut of emotions from relief, to rage and everything in between, by the end all I had left was a question: is that it?

Continue reading 6 mins
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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
23 Nov, 2023

"Systemic failure to show the reality we live in"

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Libby N,

In the following blog, Libby N, a mother to two young children who is not currently in paid employment, shares her response to the Chancellor's Autumn Statement.

Continue reading 6 mins
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Catherine Fortey
23 Nov, 2023

"All nonsensical to me"

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Beverly,

In the following blog, Beverly W a Changing Realities parent who is unable to work due to a chronic pain condition, shares their response to the Chancellor's Autumn Statement.

Continue reading 5 mins
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Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash
03 Nov, 2023

Meeting my MP

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Brian,

My name is Brian, I’m a single parent father with one daughter who is in full-time education, studying for her A-levels. I am in receipt of legacy benefits, consisting of Income related ESA, Housing Benefit and Child Benefit. I have no family to ask for help / support and receive no help of any kind from my ex-partner. I have been a participant in Changing Realities from the start, following on from Covid Realities.

Continue reading 7 mins
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Kay's art
31 Oct, 2023

The Cost of Living Crisis is Here to Stay

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Kay,

Despite the spin politicians and mainstream media are feeding anyone desperate or delirious enough to pay any attention, the Cost of Living Crisis is not over, and for those of us on the lowest incomes in the UK, it is still worsening. I can’t see an end.

Continue reading 12 mins
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photo from Michał Parzuchowski on unsplash.com
19 Oct, 2023

Speaking up for the marginalised

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Chris R,

It’s been a busy time in the political world lately. If you haven’t seen in the news already, the Labour Party Conference (LPC) took place last week in Liverpool and as we live local to the venue, I was asked by the Changing Realities team whether I would mind speaking publicly about the project, my experiences and involvement in it. It seemed an exciting prospect, so I jumped at the chance to represent participants and be able to speak out on behalf of all low-income families as best I could. You can read my full speech here.

Continue reading 6 mins
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photo from Clay Banks on unsplash.com
19 Oct, 2023

In the Face of Uncertain Futures

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Faith Angwet,

Far and wide across the country this October, locals like myself have joined forces with like-minded campaigning groups in the hopes of urging professional public bodies and policy makers on how to understand the sense of urgency of the cost-of-living crisis, which still looms. Regardless of the news articles that are being published about how things are getting back to normal, they truly are not. Inflation continues, as is evidenced in my local convenience store, where I am still able to spot household items still rising up by 5 pence or more.

Continue reading 7 mins
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Neil Thomas from unsplash.com
10 Oct, 2023

Why things can and must get better

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Jo Barker-Marsh,

Hi, my name is Jo Barker-Marsh, I am mum to a 14 year old boy with additional needs, I have been a participant on the Changing Realities project since the beginning. I was an audio visual producer in another time.

Continue reading 7 mins
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Photo by Immo Wegmann on Unsplash
19 Sep, 2023

A Hot Topic 🥵

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Ella,

During cold snaps, Cold weather paymentsof £25 per week are issued to those on low incomes, where the temperature falls to below freezing for a set period of time. While these small contributions are gratefully received, and applied automatically to those on certain benefits, it is notable there is no equivalent payment when there is a heatwave.

Continue reading 5 mins
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Aditya Romana (Unsplash)
04 Sep, 2023

The unspoken penalty for the working carer

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Ella,

To be a carer was never something I envisioned for my life, but it was something which has changed me forever. Where I was once an inpatient, reactive person has subsequently been replaced with nurturing care and endearment for the small person I now look after on a daily basis. My daughter is an asset to me, she is the kindest and most loving 5 year old girl you will ever meet. Her condition is full on and can overwhelm our entire family dynamic.

Continue reading 4 mins
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Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash
22 Aug, 2023

Experiences as an Asylum Seeker

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Izzy G,

I would like to take the opportunity to share some experiences of being in the asylum system with young children in the United Kingdom. I was not able to have a bank account at all while in the process of asylum. I wasn’t able to have a TV or have any pets. I wasn’t allowed to have a driving licence to drive. Random people from the Housing Management Services were able to enter my house without any permission or appointment, and they had access to locks with extra keys. There were occasions when my children were in the bathroom and got scared of someone entering the property without knocking. I couldn’t pursue my career as a Teacher – that’s what I had my degree in – because of not being allowed to work.

Continue reading 2 mins
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Corey Hearne from unsplash.com
21 Aug, 2023

Embracing Hope: Resolving the Struggles and Deprivation Faced by Refugees

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Beauty Megbo,

In a world filled with uncertainty, turmoil, and conflict, the plight of refugees emerges as a poignant reminder of the fragility of our existence. The unimaginable struggles and experiences endured by these individuals seeking solace and safety in foreign lands compel us to reflect on their deprivation and ponder over potential solutions. As I delve into the multifaceted issue of refugee crises, join me on this journey of empathy and understanding, as we explore approaches to resolving the challenges they face.

Continue reading 6 mins
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Photo by Patrick Perkins unsplash.com
17 Aug, 2023

Should it be illegal for an employer to deny a childcare request if it stops someone starting a job?

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Dotty G,

I have been a single parent of two children, and have been on Universal Credit for a number of years now.

Continue reading 7 mins
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07 Aug, 2023

Why we pushed for change in Westminster and why I'll keep pushing

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Crystal,

What follows is a collection of notes from Crystal's participation in the Changing Realities lobby day. This saw eight participants in the project come together with the research team and colleagues from Child Poverty Action Group to go to Westminster, to push for change and to meet MPs about why change to social security was so urgently needed.

Continue reading 8 mins
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Prchi Palwe, unsplash.com
02 Aug, 2023

Life as a single parent: a blessing and an everyday struggle

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Tayyaba Siddiqui,

I am a proud, blessed single mother to my lovely 12 year old son. I am also a keyworker, and have worked for the NHS since the start of the pandemic. On top of that, I also volunteer in my community, and as a trustee for Gingerbread, a charity that provides advice and support to single parents across the UK.

Continue reading 6 mins
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Catherine Fortey
28 Jul, 2023

‘It almost felt like I was in a “job machine”’

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Uisce Jordan,
It almost felt like I was in a “job machine” where they would just churn out jobs they thought I could apply for even though I have an area of expertise which they disregarded. It’s very hard to maintain a level of respect for the job centre when from the get-go you are made to feel inadequate. (Mollie U)

Continue reading 14 mins
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photo from Firmbee.com
22 Jul, 2023

‘Let down by the system’: Barriers to work after long-term unemployment

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Dotty G,

In this blog Changing Realities participant Dotty G, a lone parent of two children, shares her attempts to re-enter the workforce and sheds light on the challenges of long-term unemployment and the industry-specific gaps in skills and training that she encountered along the way.

Continue reading 7 mins
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photo by Heidi Fin
18 Jul, 2023

Changing Realities Lobby Day: June 2023

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Brian,

On the 28th June, 8 Changing Realities participants from across the UK came to Westminster to participate in a Lobby Day. In this blog, CR participant Brian shares his experience of attending.

Continue reading 9 mins
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07 Jul, 2023

A Year Like No Other - Acceptance Speech

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Aurora T,
Continue reading 4 mins
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Catherine Fortey
05 Jul, 2023

The DWP’s conditions when claiming certain Benefits do not make sense

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Dotty G,

After two years of fighting to have my disability recognised by the DWP, having been rejected several times for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) in the past I was elated when I eventually won my case. This was following a Mandatory Reconsideration, when the DWP decided to award me the extra point I needed in order to qualify for the standard amount of PIP (you need a minimum of 8 points to be awarded the basic amount).

Continue reading 10 mins
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K. Mitch Hodge
16 Jun, 2023

Surviving Unemployment During the Pandemic: My Frustrating Experience with the Benefit System

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Sally R,

Sally R describes her personal experience of how unexpected circumstances can lead to crisis, and how the social security system is failing to support vulnerable people.

Continue reading 6 mins
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Catherine Fortey
28 May, 2023

The Evidence is Clear

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Maddy Power,
Katie Pybus,
Uisce Jordan,
Ruth Patrick,
“My worst experience was signing on and my daughter who was 6 at the time was very poorly. I had nobody to help with childcare as she was absent from school. I called the job centre to explain the situation but they insisted if I did not sign on and comply with them, I would have my benefit sanctioned. It was hard work, carrying a 6 year old from the bus stop to the job centre. My daughter was running a temperature and drowsy. She cried throughout the time of interview/ signing on. … It's surreal as if having a child didn't matter and it was expected that I had parents to help out, and I had to explain they both passed away. I felt as if I was judged and I was embarrassed to be signing on.” – Bessie
Continue reading 8 mins
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06 Mar, 2023

"Food is a basic need"

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Erik N,

Following the recent announcement that all primary school children in London will be able to receive free school meals for the next year, Erik N writes about the importance of ensuring all children have access to free healthy and nutritious food at school.

Continue reading 4 mins
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Kilian Seiler
01 Mar, 2023

Behind the Scenes of Covid Realities and Changing Realities

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Maddy Power,
Ruth Patrick,

For more than three years, we have worked with a parents and carers living on a low income, first as Covid Realities and now as Changing Realities, to document the realities of life on a low income with children and to set out what needs to change. You can read our book, our reports (here and here) and our blogs, check out our cool zines and listen to our audio recordings of conversations between parents and carers.

Continue reading 12 mins
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03 Feb, 2023

Keeping warm this winter

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Lizzie Flew,
‘It’s not a choice between heating or eating because you can’t afford to do any. We’re lucky if we get one hot meal a week, me and my husband, because we insist on feeding the kids first because that’s what you do as a parent. Where does it stop? What else do we cut out of our lives - just to keep your kids fed?’
Continue reading 8 mins
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21 Jan, 2023

Typical Household

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Lili K,

Where is this "typical household in Great Britain" whose energy bill is not more than £2500 per year? Are they struggling as much as us? My family comprises two adults and a teenager and we live in a small two bedroomed mid terrace. We have cavity wall insulation, the regulation amount of loft insulation, we have ancient double glazing, solar panels on the roof and a gas combi boiler that is older than our daughter. We live in fuel poverty.

Continue reading 5 mins
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24 Dec, 2022

Unpacking the process: making our Covid Realities ‘Reflections’ zine

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Jean McEwan,

What we wanted to do with this zine

Continue reading 13 mins
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08 Dec, 2022

Lived Experience and Real-time Insight

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Alex Beer,

Through Covid Realities and now Changing Realities we have developed new ways of researching and working together. Today, we launch a series of films sharing different takes and reflections on what we do and why. To accompany the launch of these films we are also sharing this reflection on researching together from Alex Beer, Programme Head of Welfare at the Nuffield Foundation.

Continue reading 6 mins
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08 Dec, 2022

Ways of Being and Doing: Reflections on Researching Together

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Jean McEwan,

Through Covid Realities and now Changing Realities we have developed new ways of researching and working together. Today, we launch a series of films sharing different takes and reflections on what we do and why. To accompany the launch of these films we are also sharing this reflection on researching together from Jean McEwan, Zine Artist.

Continue reading 7 mins
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15 Nov, 2022

Letter to the Prime Minister

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Participants,
Continue reading 5 mins
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11 Nov, 2022

Pain is something I have to live with, being cold and hungry is surely not

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Beverly,

For a while now I've been searching for somewhere to channel my frustrations and concerns constructively and effectively. When I first saw the link to the Changing Realities project on social media, I knew instantly, it was something I could and should get involved with. Changing Realities satisfies my need to express dissatisfaction with systems which urgently need real change.

Continue reading 11 mins
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08 Nov, 2022

The long, cold, wait for support

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Ella,

As the clocks changed and went back an hour, suddenly we found ourselves immersed in earlier, darker evenings along with a blistery, cold draft seeping through the house. Our lights will be on more, earlier in the day, because of this but I can’t sustain the cost of keeping them on. It is times like this I try to remind myself that the government support which has been promised may eventually come.

Continue reading 3 mins
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18 Oct, 2022

Together we can help each other stay afloat

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Shirley Widdop,

As a disabled lone parent & carer to my 17 year old son; in receipt of legacy benefits since 2005, the Covid-19 pandemic meant life became even tougher for folk like me yet our stories weren’t being told. Furthermore, demonising rhetoric against benefit claimants was rife. I wanted to change that. But how?

Continue reading 9 mins
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12 Oct, 2022

Why I lived through and now want you to read A Year Like No Other

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Kim,

A Year Like No Other is a book charting the ups and downs of family life on a low income during the unprecedented times of Covid 19. It is written by researchers at the Universities of York and Birmingham in conjunction with the participants of the Covid Realities research project.

Continue reading 5 mins
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06 Oct, 2022

Changing realities: reasons to be hopeful

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Ruth Patrick,
Maddy Power,

During Liz Truss’s round of local radio interviews last week a caller rang in to Radio Leeds, wanting to ask the Prime Minister: ‘when will I ever feel hope again?’ This was a pertinent question and one that will resonate across the country as households face wave after wave of uncertainty and what feels like perpetual crisis. Optimistic if flimsy promises to build back better after the pandemic now seem like a foolhardy, even cruel joke, replaced as they have been this descent into chaos and despair.

Continue reading 8 mins
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27 Sep, 2022

Why should I get involved?

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Caroline,

Changing Realities aims to do exactly what it says, but, it needs us: our voices, YOUR VOICE. This is what will drive the change, otherwise, it is just politicians and academics doing what they think is best for us (the lower paid and poorest in society) which is nothing different than the way it has been. The pandemic has taught us a lot and the Covid Realities project became a lifeline to so many people, not only isolated because of lockdowns, but isolated because of poverty, poor mental health and the stigma that makes us hide away.

Continue reading 3 mins
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27 Sep, 2022

Does the “mini-budget” reflect the needs of everyday realities?

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Uisce Jordan,

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng unveiled his "mini-budget" last week. This includes the largest tax giveaway in 50 years, which will primarily favour the wealthy and be initially funded by increased borrowing from the government. Focusing on benefiting the wealthiest in society makes it feel like this Chancellor is completely out of touch with what everyday people need. It feels absurd that he is removing the cap from bankers bonuses whilst tightening conditionality of those in receipt of social security payments, despite the UK already having some of the harshest in the world. His proposals seem inherently unfair, leaving many to feel pretty helpless while we worry about the level of inequality rising. Some people refer to this budget as "radical," however, what would be more radical would be to listen to people who are on low incomes or in struggling families to determine what changes are actually needed to improve everyday realities.

Continue reading 4 mins
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23 Sep, 2022

This cruel budget offers nothing for families like mine

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Tayyaba Siddiqui,

I am a single parent working in the NHS as a therapy assistant. I work part-time at the moment. As a survivor of domestic violence, I need to be there to support my 11 year old son. I’ve worked full-time in the past but currently work 22.5 hours a week. That means I combine the work I do as a parent with the work I do for the health service.

Continue reading 4 mins
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Nick Fewings
23 Sep, 2022

I've signed up to Changing Realities: this is why I think you should too

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Kim,

My name is Kim. I am a married disabled mother of four sons. Right now, life is extremely difficult. The weather is getting colder, the nights are closing in at the same time as prices for everything are skyrocketing.

Continue reading 2 mins
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Cat Fortey
14 Sep, 2022

Changing Realities against a context of everyday crisis: An invitation to get involved

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Ruth Patrick,
Maddy Power,

2022 has already been an incredibly eventful year for the UK, with one week in September alone seeing both the death of our monarch, and a change in prime minister. That week also featured Liz Truss’s new government making a major announcement in response to the cost of living crisis, promising support to cap average households energy bills over the next two years. Despite this busy news agenda, the cost of living crisis has remained at the forefront of the political and national conversation, with concern over how households will weather an unhappy combination of record breaking rates of inflation, rapidly escalating energy prices, stagnant wages and inadequate social security provision.

Continue reading 9 mins
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